Co-op accused of 'blatant untruths' as Rugby playground destroyed and playing field fenced off - The Rugby Observer

Co-op accused of 'blatant untruths' as Rugby playground destroyed and playing field fenced off

Rugby Editorial 22nd Jun, 2016 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

A ‘SAD day’ – those were the words of a New Bilton resident as the Co-op followed through on its threat to dismantle a children’s playground and fence off a public park, just one month away from the school summer holidays.

The Heart of England Co-operative, which owns Oakfield Park in Bilton Road, ordered Rugby Borough Council (RBC) to remove all play equipment and vacate the grounds so it could board up the field, after the council rejected its planning application to build 50 houses there.

But a spokesman for the Save Oakfield protest group questioned the Co-op’s reasoning that they could ‘no longer take on the legal responsibility for public access’.

Richard Joy said: “This is very strange because Rugby Borough Council has provided rolling insurance since the lease ran out. The Co-op is hiding behind blatant untruths.”

He added local children had been visibly upset at the playground’s destruction.

Rugby Borough Council was ordered to destroy and remove the children’s play equipment at Oakfield Park by its owners, The Heart of England Co-operative. 25.016.010.rug.jm1

He said: “I was talking to my sobbing daughter about it this evening. She’s confused and doesn’t understand why she had an area to play on yesterday, but can’t play outside today.”

He hoped the Co-op would review its decision and consider negotiations with the Council. “The moment the fence goes up is the moment that the damage done to their brand becomes irreparable,” he added. “Now is the time for the Co-op to realise the damage they are causing the community.”

Over 100 residents took to the field on Saturday to form a human chain in protest.

Saturday’s ‘human chain’ protest at Oakfield Park.

Peter Crawford, also of Save Oakfield, said: “The fence going up is not the end of the dispute. If the Co-op has any hope of developing the site, it still needs to win an appeal against the recent unanimous decision to reject its planning application.

“We would expect the Planning Inspectorate or Secretary of State to take an equally dim view of the Co-op’s half-baked scheme.”

Mark Pawsey MP has asked Communities Minister Greg Clark to determine the Co-op’s appeal, describing Oakfield as an “invaluable open space”.

The council unanimously rejected the Co-op’s application on grounds Oakfield should remain a community park. The land had been leased as a recreation ground by the council for around 30 years, but the lease expired in 2014 and the Co-Op decided not to extend it.

A council notice posted at Oakfield said: “The council recognises Oakfield Rec is a community resource that should be available for residents to enjoy.

“RBC has repeatedly offered to buy Oakfield or enter into a new long-term lease, but the Co-op does not wish to explore either of these options.”

The Co-op declined to comment.

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